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New health chair doctor must restore confidence: Secord

Saturday, 3rd June, 2017

By Andrew Robertson

The new chairman of the Far West Local Health District has a giant job ahead of him to restore confidence in the “crisis-ridden” health service, according to NSW Shadow Health Minister Walt Secord.

Mr Secord said he “cautiously welcomed” the appointment of Dr Andrew Refshauge, who takes on the role following the sudden resignation of Tom Hynes on Wednesday.

Mr Hynes’ departure comes after two separate reviews were conducted into the dismissal of four board members in October last year on the orders of previous health minister Jillian Skinner.

Ms Skinner said the shake-up was about getting the right “skills mix” onto the board but the sacked members claimed they were targeted following a dispute with Mr Hynes over the board’s relationship with chief executive, Stuart Riley.

Mr Hynes, who was chairman for over four years, has told the BDT that it was his decision alone to resign, although he declined to explain why he had decided to go now.

“I chose to resign. There’s a new man appointed and I’m very pleased to see a man of such calibre appointed as chair,” he said.

The board’s restructure is the latest distraction for a health service which in recent years has had to defend itself against claims it has fostered a culture of bullying, nepotism and mismanagement. 

An investigation sparked by the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association in 2015 found no evidence of bullying or harassment of nursing staff.

Later that year, Mr Riley was the subject of a separate investigation amid claims a number of senior managers had resigned because of bullying.

Mr Riley was subsequently cleared of any wrongdoing.

Mr Secord said he hoped Dr Refshauge’s experience would now help stabilise the embattled health board which has continued to “lurch from crisis to crisis”.

“Dr Refshauge has a giant job ahead of himself. He needs to help restore confidence in the management of the health district ... and redirect the energy to providing quality care for patients.”

He also called on the government or Mr Refshauge to release the two reviews into the dismissal of the four board members.

The four say they are yet to receive any answers to questions in relation to the timing of their dismissal or who had advised the minister.

“The State Government and the incoming local health district chair should immediately release the two reviews into the dismissal of the four board members,” Mr Secord said.

“At the very minimum, those reports should be made available to the person involved. They have a right to know.

“This is about transparency and openness in the health and hospital system.”

A spokeswoman for health minister Brad Hazzard said Dr Refshauge was well placed to lead the health district and to ensure there are effective partnerships with organisations such as Maari Ma aboriginal health.

She said Dr Refshauge, who was deputy premier for 10 years, had spent time in and around Broken Hill and once worked as a doctor with Aboriginal medical service at Wilcannia.

“Dr Refshauge has advised the minister that he is looking forward to working with the local community.”

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